Portland TriMet works to protect the privacy of transit riders – House Bill 4086

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Portland TriMet works to protect the privacy of transit riders – House Bill 4086
February 11, 2014 Mary Fetsch

TriMet is moving toward implementing a new electronic fare collection system that will include mobile ticketing and other convenient rider services. But with this exciting new technology comes new challenges.

This new e-fare system will also collect personally-identifiable information about riders, such as their travel patterns or private financial and account information. Under existing Oregon Public Records Law, TriMet would have to release personal information about riders upon request.

TriMet supports and complies with the state’s public records law but is supporting this legislation to protect our riders privacy and some of their personal information from disclosure. House Bill 4086 would exempt customer’s personal travel patterns from public records request law. State Rep. Carolyn Tomei (D-41) is sponsoring the bill now working its way through the Legislature. Rep. Tomei represents Milwaukie, Oak Grove and portions of Southeast Portland.

“Our concern is that in cases of domestic violence, for example, TriMet would be required to release information related to someone’s travel patterns and we would not be able to protect riders,” said Rep. Tomei. “This may be an extreme example, but it is within the realm of possibility, and this small change in the law will protect the public.”

At this time four other states – Florida, Georgia, Utah and Washington – have passed exemptions in its public records laws related to electronic fare collection.

Why Now?
TriMet’s e-fare system will begin to be rolled out to riders in September 2015 with the opening of the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project. The Legislature needs to act now on this legislation to coincide with the fare system design phase now underway. Waiting until the 2015 legislative session would increase e-fare design costs, delay the project and could create some customer service difficulties.

This bill would only amend the public records laws related to disclosure of some personal identifiable information, such as travel patterns related to mass transit systems. Some current exemptions in the Public Records Law may provide limited, qualified protection from disclosure of some personally identifiable information, but do not cover all situations.

HB4086 was unanimously approved by the House Judiciary Committee and the bill is headed to the House floor within the next week.

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